Welcome back to the next installment of way too early free agent targets for the Atlanta Braves
The Braves bolstered their rotation by securing Charlie Morton for at least one more year, and even though that does not mean they are done adding rotation depth, they have more pressing needs.
After signing Morton for $20 million next season, the Braves are on the hook for $78.025 million guaranteed next year. Their payroll will be significantly higher once players go through arbitration and they extend Freddie Freeman (hopefully). Plus, they could also exercise the contracts of Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall.
However, with payroll flexibility, the Braves have more options to allocate their funds. For example, if they decide they do not want to pay Grant Dayton what he would earn in his third year of the arbitration process, they are not required to do so.
Relief pitching is a must
With that in mind, who is a viable option to pursue? Corey Knebel has already been mentioned, but fortunately for the Braves, plenty of right-handed relief options will be available via free agency.
It makes sense to add a righty because other than Richard Rodriguez and Luke Jackson, there are no other reliable righty relievers on the 26-man roster, unless you count Jacob Webb.
Webb has a high ceiling with a 227 adjusted ERA (ERA+ which he is 127% above average) in 66 games, so expect him to be a big part of the future. But still, the Braves should add in this area, given all of their struggles in the late innings this season.
Enter Daniel Hudson
Daniel Hudson is not the type of player that fans will get super excited about, but he has been a solid pitcher for many years. He entered the majors in 2009 and owns an ERA+ of 108 for his career.
In 2014, Hudson became a reliever full-time, owning a 3.95 FIP with 9.6 strikeouts per 9 innings and 2.68 strikeout to walk ratio (SO/W) ever since.
As far as expected FIP (xFIP) goes, he did have some trouble in 2019 and 2020, posting a 5.08-mark and 5.13, respectfully. However, it is hard to count 2020 for relievers since their sample size was so small (see A.J. Minter and his 0.83 ERA in 2020 vs. 4.22 in 2021).
It should also be noted that 2019-20 were the only seasons as a reliever where Hudson’s xFIP was ever higher than 4.57. xFIP is far from a perfect statistic, but this does show that Hudson has been consistent for a very long time, which is rare for relievers.
His peripherals paint a much better picture
At the end of the day, result-driven statistics like ERA are what matters, even if the defense, ballpark, etc. heavily influenced it. However, surface numbers can be terrible at predicting future performance since a player’s environment will change from year to year.
Hudson’s next team will be acquiring him to perform in the future, not reminisce on what he has done in the past. Because of this, it only makes sense to factor in his underlying metrics to try and predict future performance, taking out as many variables as possible.
Since 2015, Hudson’s expectancy stats have been solid:
- Expected Batting Average Against (xBA) – .224
- Expected Weighted On Base Average Against (xwOBA) – .303
- Expected Slugging Percentage Against (xSLG) – .384
- Expected OPS Against – .687
And Hudson’s numbers are even better this season.
- Expected Batting Average Against (xBA) – .189
- Expected Weighted On Base Average Against (xwOBA) – .277
- Expected Slugging Percentage Against (xSLG) – .351
- Expected OPS Against – .621
Hudson is also setting career bests in 2021 with xERA (2.88), walk%, and strikeout%, showing this year has been no fluke. He will be coming off a two-year, $11 million contract (not adjusted for the pro-rated 2020 salary). If he is willing to take another contract like his last, the Braves should seriously consider bringing him on.
Photo: John Cordes/Icon Sportswire
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